The day after I took the pregnancy test that revealed I had a third child cooking inside of me, I was carrying my 2-year-old and 1-year-old down the stairs. This had been a morning tradition ever since my second was born. I would carry them and sing a silly made-up song, “Two Babies,” as we headed downstairs for breakfast.
I soon realized things were going to have to change. I would be swollen everywhere — and achy — before I knew it, and carrying around two toddlers at the same time was not going to be something I was able to do for much longer. I figured I should put a stop to this honored tradition sooner than later, so I gently put them both down and took their hands instead. It did not go over well. They both screamed and cried, and there was probably body flailing. I can’t be sure though. I blocked it out. They did not care about the growing baby in my belly or how tired I was. I just stood there in the kitchen and let them howl.
Normally, I would have tried to bribe them with a frozen squeeze yogurt or tried to distract them by asking them to help me make breakfast, but another realization flashed before me: This would be the time I would be feeding their new sibling. Trying to nurse one child and calm two tantruming toddlers was going to be something I had to do, but there would also be times I would just have to let them scream it out.
I was so worried about my oldest feeling neglected when I had my daughter that I tried to keep the pace going for him, while still wanting to give my daughter the time and attention I had given my son. I was trying to do the impossible. My soon-to-be three kids needed me to stay as sane as possible so I could attempt to raise them into functional humans. I knew the only way to do that was to change my ways with the arrival of my third child, and I put a stop to these things:
1. I stopped letting people come to the hospital.
Nobody got a call except for the few people my husband dialed on the way to the hospital — before I twisted the phone out of his hands and reminded him his wife was having contractions three minutes apart and maybe the phone up his ass would mimic my pain. I did not want anyone there waiting for me to give birth. I wanted to push this child out without anyone waiting in the wings, ordering pizza, or camping out outside my hospital room. I wanted time alone with my husband and new child. I needed to collect as much rest as possible, and I would not be able to do that if I had a sea of people coming in and out during my short stay.
2. I stopped trying so hard.
I was outnumbered when my husband would leave for work every morning with two kids, yes, but three is a whole different shitshow. And by that, I mean all three kids usually shit at the same time, cried at the same time, and were hungry at the same. One mama can only do so much. I had to stop trying to comfort each and every one of them at every moment simply because it was impossible. We all got comfortable with being a little uncomfortable and we are all stronger because of it.
3. I stopped giving fucks.
If my two older kids watched four hours of television so I could nurse, change, and hold the new baby while inhaling his delicious head in peace, I let it happen. I stopped feeling like I had to entertain them every second. Organic homemade snacks started to be replaced with semi-healthy stuff from packages. I didn’t attempt to make baby food. I didn’t try to tidy up after every meal or epic mess. I laughed when people tried to give me parenting advice. I didn’t care if it seemed rude.
4. I stopped letting people come over.
Unless you were invited, and said you were bringing dinner, you weren’t welcome. This whole “dropping in on a mama, her new baby, and two toddlers so I can hold the tiny one for five minutes and hopefully get a meal” did not fly after the third child was born. This is not the Plaza and I am not a goddamn hostess. My bones were tired, I cried a lot, and never wore pants. So unless you came offering pizza with your sleeves rolled up, you were dead to me.
5. I stopped saying yes all the time.
My kids and husband took the biggest hit in this department. “No, I can not play crazy elephants with you right now, I have to feed your brother.” “No, I did not make dinner. Also, forget about having special relations tonight.” But there were also friends and family I had to stop saying yes to as well. The ones who understood are still here. The ones who didn’t? Well, they aren’t, and that’s just fine.
I stopped doing other things alone too, like showering, finishing the food on my plate, and sleeping. For me, that third child was harder than the second. It turned my world upside down and made me feel like I had no idea what I was doing. But really, I did know. I knew how to love those three kids with everything I had, even if that meant saying no to them. Even if my house wasn’t clean every day and I fed them junk sometimes, even if I couldn’t wait to put them to bed so I could peel off my nursing bra and pass out until the baby woke up 20 minutes later — I did know what I was doing. I was empowering myself by letting go, so I could mother the best way I knew how.